The fiasco of the 10th general convention of the Nepal Students Union (NSU), the student wing of the Nepali Congress, has led to doubts whether the impending party general convention will pass off problem-free. The background to the disruption is even more serious. Former NSU general secretary Gagan Thapa insisted on standing for president, while party president Girija Prasad Koirala wanted a consensus candidate, excluding Thapa, who is suspected of being something. The differences and the ensuing fights between the Thapa and pro-Koirala factions resulted in several being injured and Dipendera Convention Hall vandalised in Pokhara. The Thapa faction walked out. Hours later, the party leadership called off the convention.

But the most dramatic was Koirala’s charge against Thapa, as well as against NC central member Narhari Acharya, of being ‘agents of the palace,” a remark made while talking to party cadre in Biratnagar on Tuesday upon arrival from Pokhara. However, yesterday, the Morang Congress denied that Koirala had referred to anybody in particular at the meeting. Paradoxically, Thapa and Acharya have projected themselves as being open to the debate on republicanism, the former vociferously in favour of it. Koirala, it is reported, alleged that the palace has promoted both, and succeeded with the students in Pokhara. No doubt, the disruption must have pleased Koirala’s political foes and may deepen the fissures in his party.

The accusations, coming as they do from a man of Koirala’s stature, need to be taken seriously. But, for now, the denial has spared Koirala the burden of proof, though he has succeeded in getting his message across. This is something at which seasoned politicians are masters. So he need not now accept Thapa’s challenge to prove the charge. Thapa also accused the party leadership of preventing the closed-door session from being held to forestall adoption of a pro-republican agenda. Critics have long alleged that anybody who wants to grow independently of the Koirala family is conveniently sidelined. Anyway, what does it mean to be royalist? Koirala himself has always been a champion of rajshakti and janashakti working in tandem, and at Biratnagar, he ruled out any republican agenda at the party’s 11th convention. Viewed thus, he appears more pro-palace than Thapa and Acharya. A party that calls itself democratic must let its members express their views freely.